Can you believe that Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I are already done with thirteen books for #ReadingValdemar? This series started in 1987, and she’s still writing about Valdemar. In 2019, Eye Spy was published, and now that I work at a library, I see it everywhere — which tells me there are still Valdemar fans! I’m already planning out Valdemar 2020 and 2021. I hope the FAMILY SPIES trilogy is finished by then (it should be) because I can’t pause a series while the author keeps writing. My memory just doesn’t work that way.
Today, the focus is on the last book in THE MAGE STORMS trilogy. I thought we were back in Valdemar, but the envoys in the alliance travel to the tower of one of history’s best mages, a guy named Urtho who faced off and defeated a blood mage named Ma’ar by setting off a device that destroyed all magic spells. In the process, Urtho’s tower was destroyed and Ma’ar’s hideout was decimated like a crater hit it. In contemporary Valdemar, that crater is now a lake around which a village has popped up, so that’s nice.
Karal and the rest of the cast are at Urtho’s tower to see if they can find another device created by the crafty tinkerer that might counteract the last “wave” that will hit, one that is likely to destroy everything as it changes living things into monsters. In fact, these “waves” the undo spells are a historical echo coming back as the result of Urtho hitting the “NO TURNING BACK” button all those thousands of years ago.
Readers are also sent to two other settings: Elspeth and Darkwind travel to Tremane in Hardorn, as he is the newest ally to Valdemar, and we get to know Melle, the new heir to the Eastern Empire now that Tremane clearly isn’t coming back. Both settings demonstrate just how different Tremane and Melle would rule the Eastern Empire, but I found Melle’s story line a snooze. Lackey falls into telling, and my emotional attachment was zero. Melle would silence food riots, and he’d wish for the current emperor’s death, and he would make a backdoor alliance with the captain of the army, but it felt that nothing was at stake. Do I care about the faceless mass living in the Eastern Empire? No.
I started to feel emotionally detached in Karal’s scenes at Urtho’s tower, too. What was it that was keeping me from caring? Then it dawned on me: no one has died — no one I cared about, anyway — since Vanyel’s timeline. And when characters do die, they have the honor of coming back as a deity’s avatar, so they’re not really gone.
What the team at Urtho’s tower was doing, and how long they had to do it, was unclear, which also made me feel like nothing was at stake. Clearly people lived through the destruction caused by Urtho when he defeated Ma’ar or there wouldn’t be people in the present, so what is at stake? Will everything living continue to turn into rage monsters? Will people who can use magic simply die? I honestly have no idea.
As Firesong, Sejanes, and An’desha, among others, translate Urtho’s ancient tongue so they can figure out what each device does, if anything, readers are weirdly given no descriptions other than they settle on a cube puzzle to be their final solution. I felt like I didn’t know what anyone was doing in the tower. Give me some translations of Urtho’s documents, or tests run on a device, or what each device deemed not useful does, or what the devices even look like — something.
Tremane’s sections were much more interesting, as Lackey gives faces and value to the people he rules, and when one character gets lost, hungry, cold, etc., I care about him/her and was interested in how Tremane would react. We also get some new features — wizard magic and what is going on in Iftel in Tremane’s story line, so heads up for an exciting return to mind magic and intrigue!
The next book in the series, Owlflight, is part of a new trilogy and will introduce readers to a new lead character and location. The novel takes place many years after THE MAGE STORMS ends, meaning Lackey will get another chance to inspire me emotionally, and perhaps let go of some characters with whom I’ve grown too familiar, such as Firesong, An’desha, Darkwind, and Elspeth. As all four are mages, my hope is Lackey introduces readers to a character who only has mind magic, or is part of a normal village — something a bit different. Mind magic feels like it had solid rules that I know, whereas mage magic can do anything the plot needs. Convenient, but in an uncomfortable way.